James Madison


Part of the P.O.T.U.S Series

Who: James Madison, Jr.

What: 4th President of the United States (1809-17), ‘Father of the Constitution’, champion of the Bill of Rights

Where: Born Port Conway, Virginia Colony; died Orange, Virginia

Why: One of the three authors of the Federalist Papers, co-author of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, considered the Father of the Constitution, President during the War of 1812

When: Born March 16, 1751; died June 28, 1836

“If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy” – James Madison



James Madison was born to a Virginian tobacco planter, the eldest of twelve children. He attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, studying Latin, Greek, geography, mathematics, rhetoric and philosophy. He also studied speech and debate, founding the American Whig Society, gained fluency in Hebrew, and studied law. Despite his small stature, he served in the Revolutionary War as the colonel of the Orange County militia, but did not see combat. He was a delegate to the Virginia Convention and became member of the Continental Congress, before serving as a US Representative during the presidency of George Washington. He and his good friend Thomas Jefferson helped found the Democratic-Republic Party and he served as Jefferson’s Secretary of State.

Father of the Constitution

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he drafted most of the US Constitution, before writing the Federalist papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in order to help get approval for the Constitution. He also was the main author of the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. The War of 1812 broke out after his reelection, as Congress declared war on Britain, who had been seizing American trade goods. The war ended in 1814 with no pre-war issues resolved, though British troops managed to march on Washington and burn the White House and Library of Congress. After his presidency, he retired to Virginia, remaining active in politics until his death in 1836.

Facts about James Madison

Madison was the shortest President so far, at 5 feet 4 inches (163cm), and never weighing more than 100 pounds (45kg)

He was initially opposed to the idea of a national bank – until he needed one to fund the War of 1812

Madison and Thomas Jefferson were once arrested for taking a carriage ride in Vermont on a Sunday

He is one of six presidents named James, along with Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield and Carter.

He is featured on the $5000 bill, no longer printed but still legal tender

He married the vivacious Dolley Payne Todd in 1794 – he was 43, ‘shy and reticent’, she a ‘vivacious’ 26-year-old widow

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